East Downtown’s loss is The Leader area’s gain. Cuc Lam, the operating partner at the Singaporean inspired eatery SING opening this spring at Revive’s 34th and Ella development, said that both Garden Oaks/Oak Forest and East Downtown were on the short list for SING. However, news of a highway expansion downtown and questions about what would be taken by the city as eminent domain tipped the ball in our favor. It also caused Lam and business partner Jerry Lasco to fine tune their vision.
“We were going to have people walking over from Dynamo games and Astros games, but now we are going to have more families,” said Lam. “I’m excited about the opportunity to introduce this food to the neighborhood.”
Lam said that while some people might find the concept of Singapore cuisine intimidating, she’s eager to open and show customers something different.
“Houston is a fascinating food city,” said Lam. “This is the city you can try this in. People crave the excitement [of new dishes]. We are going to take it one dish at a time.”
The food prices will no doubt be popular with patrons. The most expensive menu item is $12 and appetizers will be $4 to $5. Beer, wine and a $6 sake cocktail will also be on the menu. Lam said that more than 90 percent of the menu items are gluten free.
As someone who has hosted more than 100 pop-up meals in her home, Lam has had plenty of experience introducing new foods to diners.
“You take Bak kut teh which is a strange word to people but then you explain that it’s pork bone noodle soup,” she said. “You try to connect all the ways the food came to be. You tell a story.”
And as a former Houston Press restaurant critic who was the columnist for the openings and closings section, Lam has gotten a feel for why restaurants succeed, and fail.
“There are so many ups and downs in the restaurant industry,” she said. “For those who didn’t make it, maybe they didn’t learn fast enough, or change fast enough.”
Lam says that they are committing to what she calls NextGen dining, providing a app for quicker service and partnering with a delivery service to get hot food fast to increasing numbers of people “who really prefer having food on their couch.” Above all, Lam is determined to be flexible.
“We’re not going to get stuck in any process and will be constantly looking for ways to improve,” she said.
A jack of all trades, Lam has been a middle school English teacher and an IT professional. She used to own a bar and grill in the Westchase area where she honed her cooking chops during theme nights such as Kung Fu Wednesday where she served the Asian dishes she’s been cooking with her mother and aunts from her childhood in Long Beach, Mississippi.
“My heart is in the kitchen,” said Lam.
It was her love of food which led her doing pop-ups in her home, and it was serendipity that at one of these pop-ups Thomas Nguyen of Peli Peli was in attendance.
“He said he knew of a guy who wanted to open an Asian concept restaurant,” said Lam.
That guy was famed restauranteur Jerry Lasco of The Tasting Room and Max’s Wine Dive and within two meetings of Lam and Lasco the deal was cemented.
“He told me that I was the one he was looking for,” said Lam.
The focus on Singapore cuisine was Lasco’s idea and after an August business trip to Singapore, Lam understood how she wanted to approach SING.
“A lot of the dishes are not new to me,” said Lam, whose father is Chinese and whose mother is Vietnamese. “It’s all about the variation of spices, noodle or broth that’s used in presenting each dish.”
She’s clear that SING won’t be a fusion restaurant even though Singapore is a melting pot for cuisines such as Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Indian.
“Vietnamese Pho is going to be Vietnamese Pho,” said Lam.
Monica Danna with Revive told The Leader that SING will be on the end cap of the center closest to the boot shop and that there will be tables and chairs for dine in.